SCHUBERT Lieder – Brigitte Fassbaender
My notes on this marvellous issue are littered with amazed adjectives. Fassbaender's daring, all-in style precisely matched, indeed encouraged by Reimann's challenging, bold piano find their ideal vehicle in the searing, searching, innovative world of Schwanengesang. Never can these songs have sounded so original, so achingly tense as here. There is little to please those who want to hear merely a beautiful sound or a neat, welltailored style, everything to move those who believe that, like her great predecessors, Lehmann and Fischer-Dieskau or her co-eral Schrier, the word should have equal place with the music. Each song is felt as a miniature music-drama, a perfect summation in notes of the terrors of the heart, the loneliness of the mind as expressed by Rellstab, even more Heine.
Immediately, in ''Kriegers Ahnung'', phrases such as ''Von Sehnsucht mir so heiss'' pierce the soul of the listener. So do the questioning phrases at the end of every line in ''Fruhlingssehnsucht!'', such as ''Warum?'' and ''Und du?'', each one a heartrending cry. The inner tension wonderfully created by Reimann in ''Aufenthalt'' is seconded by the voice as Fassbaender tears into a line like ''Fliessen die Trane'' while ''In der Ferne'' is notable for the weighting of words by the singer, of notes by the pianist. Even the lighter songs ''Standchen'' and ''Der Abschied'' have their own individuality with Reimann's clipped playing in the former exactly conveying the timbre of a guitar. But why do the pair leave out two verses of the latter?
In the Heine settings, sung in a different and more logical order than that in the Peters Edition, it is the stark immediacy of the readings that strikes home and once more Fassbaender's colouring and/or illuminating of individual words, such as the darkening of tone at ''Der Schiffer'' in ''Die Stadt'' or the emphasis on ''langst'' and ''Platz'' in ''Der Doppelganger'', which would seem to be the appropriate hairraising climax of this arresting interpretation until one hears the harsh defiance of ''Der Atlas''. You need to be in a strong mood to face up to the unvarnished realism of these performances but, once entered into, they are absolutely gripping. Only ''Am Meer'', somewhat too outwardly sung, seems out of character. I find comparisons at the moment impossible to contemplate as this reading is so shattering as to rule out any other. If you respond to it, no other will do; if you don't, look up my reviews of other recent recordings, of which there are many.
The partnership sensibly place their account of five Seidl settings before the Rellstab and Heine sings. Sehnsucht has many intimations of Schwanengesang: Fassbaender and Reimann perfectly reflect its sombre mood. Reimann's marching, insistent introduction prefaces a firm adumbration of its restless mood. That Fassbaender can still produce a warm tone and smooth legato is shown in a lovely account of the unjustly neglected Wiegenlied and in an eloquently shaped account of the elusive, but hauntingly lovely Am Fenster. So this is a notable and rewarding bonus to the unforgettable Schwanengesang. To complete satisfaction the DG recording is full of presence and as truthful as the performances.'